10 Reasons Babies Cry and How to Soothe Them Fast

When it seems like your baby is crying for no reason, sometimes it's helpful to hear professional reassurance that, yes, there is a reason and, yes, there is a solution.
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Portrait of crying baby
Portrait of crying baby

Written by Sasha Brown-Worsham for CafeMom's blog, The Stir.

Being a new mom is a fairly terrifying endeavor. The day you come home from the hospital with your newborn, you are immediately plunged into an unknown world with a strange and demanding creature you have no idea how to care for.

Good times.

This is where experts like Amy Spangler, president of BabyGooroo.com and former President of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA), comes in. What new mom doesn't need expert advice, after all? When it seems like your baby is crying for no reason, sometimes it's helpful to hear professional reassurance that, yes, there is a reason and, yes, there is a solution. Spangler spoke exclusively with The Stir to help us decipher the 10 most common reasons babies are in distress and how you can help them. And yourself.

According to Spangler, there aren't really 50 different cries. "Many would argue that babies have a single cry that varies in intensity and pitch depending on the cause," Spangler says. "It's the behaviors that accompany the cry (sucking on a fist, pulling on an ear, etc.) that are a more reliable indicator of the cause for the cry rather than the cry itself."

So the key is to identify the cause, right? Seems easy enough. Except it isn't. Babies can be maddening in their ability to cry for seemingly no reason. But there usually is one root cause. Spangler offers 10 potential causes for distress and how to best soothe. They are:

"I'm lonely": Babies often cry because they want to be held and played with. This isn't surprising given that human babies are social beings. They thrive on the sensory stimulation that comes with touching, talking, and cuddling.

"I'm hungry": You can prevent this common cause of crying by watching your baby for initial hunger cues such as stretching or squirming, sucking sounds or mouth movements, or sucking on fingers or fists and feeding your baby before she cries.

"I need to burp": Crying that occurs after a feeding can be a sign that your baby needs to burp. Some babies (especially bottle-fed babies) swallow air when they eat. You can remove the air by burping your baby before, during, and after she eats.

"I'm tired": Crying can signal a variety of needs, but when crying is accompanied by eye rubbing, it usually means that your baby is tired and needs sleep. Establishing a bedtime routine and sticking to it gives your baby a sense of security and helps calm your baby.

"That hurts!": A loud, sudden cry can signal pain. Watching for other cues will help you locate the exact cause. For example, a sick baby may pull on his ear, while a baby stimulated by too many sights and sounds may turn her head or arch her back.

"I'm dirty!": Crying can signal a wet or poopy diaper. You can reduce your baby's crying by changing his diaper regularly -- for example, shortly after every feeding, or every two to three hours -- rather than waiting for a poopy smell or a heavy wet diaper to signal the need for a change.

"I'm sick!": Babies typically cry when they are sick. Your baby can't tell you what hurts, but her cry lets you know that something isn't right. In addition to checking your baby's temperature, watch her body language. Is she pulling her legs up to her tummy? Is she tugging at her ear?

"I'm constipated!": Crying and constipation go hand-in-hand. Gentle massage, a warm (not hot) compress or bath, swaddling, or the "colic hold" (holding your baby tummy-down along your forearm) can be soothing.

"I'm teething!": Crying can be a sign that your baby is teething. Sharp tiny teeth breaking through sensitive gums can be painful. Giving your baby something to chew on may ease the pain. A clean, wet washcloth that has been placed in the freezer for a few minutes is a good option.

"I'm cold!": Crying can mean that your baby isn't "just right." You may notice your baby cries when you remove her clothes to bathe her or change her diaper. It may simply be her way of telling you that she is cold. Your baby may also cry if you've dressed her too warmly and she's overheating, but it's far less common for a "too hot" baby to cry than a "too cold" one.
Does your baby do any of these cries?

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